By 2026, one in four Australians over 80 will be culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD).

To accommodate this demographic shift, the age care industry is taking steps to cater for people from various ethnic backgrounds. Government-funded organisations provide specialist education, customised advice, and multilingual resources to help aged care homes meet their CALD client’s needs. 

After all, cultural and linguistic diversity in the nursing home is a fundamental human right. 

But like any societal change, it’s a slow evolutionary process; and in the interim, some CALD Nursing Home residents may find they’re receiving inadequate care.

From inhibited communication to undesirable food and a lack of culturally appropriate events, Age Care entails a whole host of challenges for people of diverse backgrounds. 

In this post, we’ll show you how to overcome cultural differences and language barriers in the Nursing Home. We’ll also include actionable advice on how to find culturally-specific care. 

Overcoming cultural barriers in an aged care home

Transitioning into a Nursing Home can be a daunting prospect for anyone. But when you’re thrown into a strange, foreign environment full of people with unfamiliar cultures and beliefs, the move can become a major challenge. 

That’s why it’s so important to find an appropriate aged care facility where your loved one can feel at home. It’s crucial to locate a place that caters to their cultural, spiritual, and dietary needs. 

If your loved one is suffering from isolation due to cultural differences in aged care, there are several ways you can help. 

While Christmas, New Year, and Easter are celebrated in nursing homes throughout Australia, most won’t cater for foreign holidays. If your loved one’s Nursing Home claims to cater to different ethnicities, ask what activities they’ll be planning for your culture’s main events. You may have to take the initiative to organise your own celebrations during a visit with your loved one. 

While culturally-specific festivals bolster our overall well-being, these only occur a few days per year. Therefore, ensuring the Nursing Home caters to diverse spiritual beliefs is even more critical. 

Offering assistance with daily prayers or installing religious icons in the bedroom, Nursing Homes can help in various ways. However, be aware that the less inclusive establishments will offer limited support. In this situation, a loved one may have to fill the gaps. 

The final key consideration is food. Your loved one has likely spent their whole life eating their culture’s specific cuisine. Instantly switching habits to entail a broad, Australian-influenced diet will wreak havoc on their mental health. And it’s not just a matter of taste. 

Studies have found many CALD Nursing Home residents become picky about the unfamiliar foods they eat. As a result, many don’t get the healthy, balanced diet they need. 

What can I do if there are language barriers at my parent’s nursing home?

While cultural differences can present a significant hurdle in a Nursing Home, a language barrier creates an even bigger issue. 

As many CALD Nursing Home residents were born overseas, they learnt English as a second language in their adult years. Some never obtained fluency. For those that did, age-related memory issues will inevitably cause them to lose their well-honed English skills and revert to their mother tongue. 

Aged care becomes particularly challenging when the resident can’t communicate with the doctors and nurses. Health issues may be left unaddressed and daily necessities ignored. CALD aged care residents often struggle to understand their medication and health plans, which can have severe long-term consequences. 

Ask your nursing home if they have any bilingual staff on board who speak your loved one’s first language. If not, as is often the case, you may be required to assist as an informal interpreter at times. Expect to answer calls at odd hours or visit the Nursing Home in person now and then.

Should you or your other family members not possess sufficient bilingual language skills (or no one is available in an emergency), you could try the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). This Government-funded programme provides round-the-clock interpreting support in over one hundred languages. 

Culturally-specific environments in aged care

All Nursing Homes in Australia must, by law, accept admissions from people with CALD backgrounds. However, there are currently no legal requirements for Aged Care Homes to run any special programs or alter their processes to cater for different ethnicities.

That means your loved one mightn’t get the culturally-specific care they need regarding festivals, food, spiritual support, and translating services. It’s up to the consumer to do their due diligence when researching an Aged Care Home. 

The ideal option is to sign-up for an ethno-specific facility. These specialised aged care centres cater to a particular cultural group through bilingual staff and culturally-specific activities. That way, your loved one can communicate freely and continue enjoying their familiar customs and cuisine.  

However, a limited number of ethno-specific nursing homes operate in Australia. And with such a broad range of different cultures living in the country, you may not find a suitable ethno-specific nursing home in your area. 

In that case, you’ll need to look for an aged care home that caters for CALD backgrounds. While these facilities aren’t as desirable as an ethno-specific nursing home, they do tend to provide better linguistic and cultural support than an ordinary nursing home. 

Qualify prospective nursing homes that claim to cater for CALD backgrounds by asking the following questions:

  • Do you have any bilingual staff that speak our language? 
  • Can you prepare and serve the food of our culture?
  • Do you run any recreational activities appropriate for our culture? 
  • Do you organise any events to celebrate our culture’s festivals? 

Finding culturally specific care

Are you looking for a Nursing Home with cultural competence for you or your loved one? 

CareAbout can help. While we can’t guarantee we’ll locate a suitable ethno-specific Aged Care Home in your area, we work with a vast network of facilities catering to CALD backgrounds. Contact our expert customer service team today to determine your best option.